What We Got Wrong About Change
I recently wrote a newsletter article on "Immunity to Change," which is a research-based change protocol developed at Harvard.
This protocol is difficult to understand because it’s counterintuitive to the will-power-based change approach most of us have been taught.
Just try harder and grit it out, and change will happen. This is what most people were taught about behavior change in the past. Unfortunately, research indicates this approach is ineffective.
The most important part of the immunity to change protocol is the “behaviors you are doing that inhibit the change."
We all have behaviors that enable our change process and behaviors that disenable our change process.
Most of you have no idea what behaviors you are engaging in that disenable your desired change.
And if you do, you have no idea why.
This is the magic formula for "Immunity to Change".
Change = Change enabling behavior - change disenabling behavior
As you can see from the above formula, if you have too many change-disenabling behaviors, you will end up with negative change.
Identifying the behaviors that are impeding your change and then coming to terms with why you are doing them.
This is best illustrated with an example.
Let’s say I know that a strong network is crucial for success in any industry.
I know a lot of you are trying to grow the quality and quantity of your networks, and I think this is a worthwhile goal.
If my goal is to grow my network, then certain behaviors enable the change I need to partake in, and certain behaviors disenable this change.
I need to engage in more network-growing behaviors and fewer network-inhibiting behaviors.
Why do we focus on behaviors? Because, unlike thoughts and feelings, behaviors are things we can see. Things we can see are easier to catch.
Let’s say that one behavior I know will help improve my network is to check in with five people I know every week to see how they are doing and if there is anything I can do to help.
Scheduling this out ahead of time would be a behavior that enables this goal. While avoiding this task would be a behavior that disenables my goal.
It’s optimal to list out as many behaviors that disenable your goal as possible.
This can be hard. It’s difficult to see how you are acting against yourself.
One of my favorites is when we have a lot of confusion regarding our goal.
I could engage in the behavior of sitting around and thinking about how I don’t know how to grow my network and debating potential strategies.
The thing is, confusion becomes a behavior that disenables our change process very quickly.
Confusion is a form of resistance to change, or immunity to change, if you will. The reason we like to engage in confusion is that it allows us to avoid doing things that are hard, time-consuming, or risky. Reaching out to past connections is all three of those things.
Therefore, an excellent way to avoid building my network is to engage in confusion. It allows me to feel like I haven’t given up on my goal, but it also protects me from any negative effects of engaging in behaviors that would enable my goal.
This is the psychological immune system at work. It will protect you, although it often protects you in a way that optimizes short-term gain (the avoidance of pain) over long-term gain (a stronger network).
I hope this helps you understand the "Immunity to Change" process better.
A quick way to engage in the benefits of this process is to do what has been illustrated above: list out all the behaviors you are doing that disenable your change or your goal.
Be brutally honest.
Then make a list of all the behaviors that enable your change.
Do these columns have relatively equal weight? Then you most likely are stuck.
You need to increase the change-enabling behaviors and decrease the change-disabling behaviors. Then you will have a formula for lasting change.